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Canadian military spent $2.66 million on search for high-altitude object shot down in Yukon

Projected cost excludes military members’ regular salary and equipment already in possession
Premier Ranj Pillai (left), Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his son and Yukon MP Brendan Hanley approach the Whitehorse airport fire hall on Feb. 13. Military aircraft provided the backdrop for a press conference. (Dana Hatherly/Yukon News)

The Canadian Armed Forces’ portion of the search for the high-altitude object shot down by NORAD over the Yukon in February is tagged at more than $2.66 million.

The projected cost provided by the Department of National Defence to the News excludes military members’ regular salaries and equipment already in possession. Spokesperson Jessica Lamirande said by email on June 2 that the figure reflects incremental costs, which are the additional costs for personnel, equipment, maintenance and support.

The department told the News on Feb. 16 that more than 135 members were contributing to the search in the territory, with “many more” assisting remotely.

Debris from the downed object in the Yukon was never located. The object was determined to be “benign in origin” and did not pose a national or human security threat, according to Yukon government documents obtained by the News under access to information law.

The documents indicate the incident — one of four events in just over a week involving aerial objects in Canadian and U.S. airspace — attracted significant media attention and heightened Canadians’ awareness of Arctic security. Information on the object and the mission to find it was limited to preserve the security of the operation and for national security reasons.

NORAD aircraft downed what is described in a Yukon government briefing note as a balloon on Feb. 11.

Canadian Armed Forces aircraft were mobilized and appeared in the Yukon on Feb. 12. An aerial search began around Dawson City and Mayo to locate and recover the object. The 3,000-square-kilometre search area has been described by authorities as having mountainous terrain, deep snow cover and variable weather.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was in the territory at the time for other reasons, told reporters at the Whitehorse airport fire hall on Feb. 13 that he had just toured with RCMP and Canadian Armed Forces members who would be leading the recovery efforts on the ground for the object.

“We don’t know the degree of hazard that could be involved in this object that was downed,” Trudeau said.

“We have to be safe.”

According to the briefing note, on Feb. 16, information emerged from the United States government that they suspected the object was “benign” and did not represent a security threat.

The search for the object was scaled down accordingly, as per the documents, and called off on Feb. 17.

In the documents, military resources were moved out of the territory during the week of Feb. 19.

The Canadian Armed Forces, Public Safety Canada and RCMP were all involved in the search, per the documents. The search was ultimately led by the police force.

The total cost of the search remains unknown. The RCMP did not respond to inquiries about costs by press deadline. Public Safety Canada deferred to the RCMP and the Department of National Defence.

The RCMP told the News by email on Feb. 17 that it was involved in the search alongside the Canadian Armed Forces to retrieve the debris and will be investigating the incident with “domestic and international partners.” Police did not disclose the number of personnel in the search for “operational” reasons.

The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) involvement in the search remains unclear.

The Pentagon’s press secretary stated in a Feb. 11 release that the FBI would be working closely with the RCMP as Canadian authorities conduct recovery operations, but the documents don’t mention the FBI, and the FBI has refused to comment.

Contact Dana Hatherly at

Dana Hatherly

About the Author: Dana Hatherly

I’m the legislative reporter for the Yukon News.
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